Gender Differences in Infection and Immunity to Genital Herpes
Akiko Iwasaki, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Immunobiology
Dr. Iwasaki investigates how viruses enter cells and how women combat virus infections with their immune systems. This work provides a basis for the design of preventive measures such as vaccines and anti-viral gels that could be tailored by gender. This funded study focused on the herpes simplex virus type 2, HSV-2, which causes genital herpes. This sexually transmitted disease is more common in women than men, and women suffer more severe symptoms.
Highlighted Study Findings
Dr. Iwasaki sought to identify the mechanism used by the virus to enter the genital tract of women. She found that one particular receptor or point of entry of this virus was highly present on the surface of the human vagina. Her research showed the importance of this receptor in genital herpes transmission. Her work demonstrated that it was possible to block the spread of the virus by either preventing the virus from entering the receptor or by altering the virus itself, by attaching an antibody to the virus membrane. These findings provide the practical groundwork for potentially developing a drug that can block the interaction of the virus and the receptor on the vaginal surface, thus preventing transmission of the virus and reducing the suffering brought on by this virus.